Written by students, for students.
The official newspaper of Crescent Valley High School.
By Charlotte Hathaway
Would you do anything to achieve your dreams? Is there a certain place, or profession, or practice that beckons you? As the longer days, bluer skies, and greener foliage of springtime begin to show their faces again, high school students are thinking about their summer breaks and the new academic year that will follow. For many upperclassmen, this means an inevitable good, long, (and for most, terrifying) look into the near future—otherwise known as college. Collegiate athletics are a bright side for many students who also navigate the stressors of school. They can provide a sense of sportsmanship, community, and even (semi-)generous scholarships. But what if the institution behind college sports isn’t all it claims to be? Do the countless hours of free labor, apathy to injury, and violation of antitrust laws fly under the radar of the National Collegiate Athletics Association? Do they utter a word of equity to players who profit nothing where coaches and the NCAA itself make billions? Do they genuinely care about the athletic dreams and aspirations of their players? Get ready to inadvertently roll your eyes at yet another unethical practice—because despite what their website homepage might say, student-athletes are far, far away from “…the heart of NCAA’s mission."
“To them nothing else matters,” writes former Division 1 athlete Cassidy Derda when describing the NCAA’s affinity with mass profits—and it’s true. In one year, the institution generates roughly 1 billion dollars from athletics, tickets, marketing deals, and more. Though one might think to call the NCAA stingy because of their attitude towards athletes, the corporation actually has no problem dividing profits when it comes to college coaches. Basketball and football coaches especially have been recorded making multimillion-dollar yearly incomes. The inequity is obvious, right? Players are constantly missing school for practice, games, and travel, which is a large part of the reason why their graduation rates are 20-30% lower than those of non-athletes. So, not only are the athletes working upwards of 40 hours a week, (rather similar to that of a paid corporate job), but they are compromising their educations to do so—with no salary to show for it. And perhaps the lack of salary isn’t even the most unethical part of this system, but rather the lack of compensation. Colleges directly profit off of the name, image, and likeness of many players, (referred to as NIL: Name, Image, Likeness). While enrolled at their school, athletes do not own their NIL, allowing the college to do with it as they please. This usually results in business deals and advertisements with big-name brands and TV networks. You might be telling yourself that athletes get a portion of this income because the college is using their own face and name, right? Unfortunately not. Though legislations arguing against this specific practice have recently been coming to light, there is yet to be an active solution.
It’s hardly a revelation to recognize that America’s roots in racism, sexism, and exploitation run long and deep. They quietly, (or sometimes quite loudly), slip their way into many aspects of American life— athletics being no exception. In the realm of college sports, it is predominately women and people of color who are harmed most by the current system, making the disparity between athletes and the NCAA a civic fight, in addition to an economic one. Let us first take a look at Britney Griner, a college basketball sensation from Baylor University. After playing basketball for years with her school, Griner went on to become a professional athlete. Exciting as that must have been, her salary was still immensely dwarfed by that of male athletes playing the very same sport. Since the popularity of women’s athletics is far less than men’s, being a professional athlete, and making about 1% of what her male counterparts make, (yeah… I’m not kidding.), was the highest rank Griner could ascend to. Because of this lack of notoriety, compensation for her NIL in college may be the only chance a female athlete has to be fairly reimbursed for her time, dedication, sensation, and skill. Just to give a clearer image of that 1% statistic, it is important to note that a professional basketball player in the WNBA makes about $75,000 annually, while the same role in the NBA makes roughly $7.7 million in the same time frame. Though Title IX began the struggle towards paving a fair way for female athletes, there is still much work to be done. This need for correction extends to other aspects of the current system as well, most notably subsidized sports. The NCAA doesn’t make its mass profits from every single sport; in fact, the vast majority of that annual income is raked in by men’s football and basketball. These two sports, unlike many others, are played mostly by Black student-athletes. These players bring home large profits to the NCAA and their school, and other sports are then subsidized, or basically, paid for, because of it. These sports include golf, tennis, and other non-big-buck athletics that are played by predominately white athletes. To put it in simpler terms: Black athletes make all of the money needed for sports played mostly by white people, and they, themselves, receive hardly any of it.
These injustices, thankfully, have not gone unnoticed. Though there have been many court cases involving the NCAA in the past, the most recent and most notable is Alston v. NCAA. Shawne Alston (running-back for West Virginia) argues for collegiate pay/compensation where the NCAA argues against it. The main supporters of the NCAA’s stance on this issue usually like to argue the point that a scholarship is enough payment for a student-athlete. They claim that college is a place of learning, not a job where students are paid. Personally, I couldn’t agree more—college is not a job. So really, colleges should not be profiting on the likes of their athletes in the first place if, after all, the whole point of college is education and education alone. Frankly, there is enough exploitation and abuse of power in this country, and the need for even more is slim to none. Currently, it seems the Supreme Court will take the side of student-athletes; many of the judges appear skeptical of the NCAA's claims. Interestingly enough, this issue has united both conservatives and liberals both in and outside of the courtroom. A final decision in the case is set to be decided by the end of June 2021.
There are many issues in college athletics that deserve addressing, far more than I can include in one piece of writing. Though mental health, injury, sexual assault/harassment, blatant racism, predatorial, irresponsible, and overpaid coaches were not topics touched on today, it is important to remember that they are present, in addition to the problems that arise with them. I’d like to pose my beginning question for you again; would you do anything to achieve your dreams? What if those dreams crossed paths with issues of collegiate athletics? Would you be able to swallow the injustices that come alongside obtaining your goal? As you ponder your choices for the future, don’t forget that there is injustice in nearly everything, and sometimes compromises must be made. Maybe your love for your sport allows you to look past the deep problems with the association that governs it—and that’s okay. As you make decisions for your future, do not let fear of injustice stop you. After all, you have a voice, and I sure hope you aren’t afraid to use it.
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